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Friday, August 17, 2007

Discovery's last stand in America

The Discovery Channel cycling team will simultaneously launch the Tour of Missouri and go out of business with a bang, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the Kansas City Star report today.

Among the riders Discovery will send to the inaugural event will be Tour de France winner Alberto Contador, third-place finisher Levi Leipheimer, eighth-place finisher Yaroslav Popovych and U.S. pro champion George Hincapie.

The Tour of Missouri will be the final U.S. race for the Discovery team, the Post reports.

Here's the text of the press release issued by Tour of Missouri organizers on Thursday:

Tour de France champion Alberto Contador of Spain and American Levi Leipheimer, the third-place finisher at that race, were officially announced today by the Discovery Channel Team as participants in the inaugural Tour of Missouri, September 11th – 16th. The Tour of Missouri is North America’s newest elite cycling stage race and patterned after the successful Tour de Georgia and Amgen Tour of California statewide stage races. The race will start in Kansas City, Tuesday, September 11 and conclude 600 miles later in St. Louis the following Sunday.

Contador and Leipheimer are both members of the Discovery Channel team which recently dominated the Tour de France with two overall podium places, two stage wins, and laying claim to the best young rider classification and overall team classification. Also included on the Discovery Channel roster in Missouri are: pre-race favorite and current U.S. National Champion George Hincapie of Greenville, S.C.; 8th place Tour de France finisher Yaroslav Popovych of the Ukraine; Tony Cruz of Long Beach, CA; 2007 3rd place finisher of the Amgen Tour of California Jason McCartney of Coralville, IA; up and coming U.S. star John Devine of Dixon, Ill., and Fuyu Li, the first Chinese athlete to compete at the elite Pro Tour level.

“To have Johan Bruyneel commit to bringing Discovery Channel’s Tour de France “dream team” to the Tour of Missouri is very special for this first-time race,” said Race Director Jim Birrell. “We will have three riders from the top eight of the Tour de France, two being from the final podium, and I look forward to hosting the entire Discovery Channel team during their swan song on domestic soil.”

The Discovery Channel team’s management company, Tailwind Sports, recently decided to disband the team at the end of the 2007 season, making the Tour of Missouri their last event in the United States. “Having just announced my retirement from cycling I am pleased that one of my last races as a director will be at the Tour of Missouri,” said Sports Director Johan Bruyneel. “I have always enjoyed directing in the U.S. because of our success and an amazing group of fans that come to see us race. It is sad to think that this will be one of the last times I will be directing, but I am glad it will be in front of a such great fans.” The Tour of Missouri will cap off a stellar season for Discovery’s Leipheimer, who won the season’s kick off race, the Amgen Tour of California in February.

“I have had an amazing 2007 season which started out when I won the Amgen Tour of California, followed by a successful showing at the Tour de Georgia and then finishing on the podium at the Tour de France. It is only fitting to close it out my season with a U.S. homecoming at the Tour of Missouri,” said Leipheimer. “I have always said that there is nothing that compares to racing at home and it will be very special for me to have guys like Alberto, Popo and George riding next to me in my final race as a Discovery Channel Team member.” George Hincapie is the 2006 US National Champion and has raced in 12 editions of the Tour de France, seven of them as Lance Armstrong’s primary lieutenant. Hincapie has won stages in the Tour de France, Tour of California and the celebrated Dauphine Libere.

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